We now know that volunteering is good for both the mind and the body, because it builds community and diminishes loneliness by reducing stress and social isolation, while also developing a solid support system. It enhances social skills, builds mental strength, and increases self-confidence and life satisfaction. It has even been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain and heart disease. But more importantly, volunteering teaches us that everyone is valuable, thus developing ethical behaviour.
It is only in recent years that we’ve begun to understand the importance of Emotional Intelligence (EI). Where brain smarts (or IQ) help us get a job, it is EI or the “soft skills” that help us keep our jobs—or at least succeed in our vocation. Even tertiary institutions have begun recognising that kids who have an outward-looking mindset often possess stronger EI and develop those important soft skills. (Of course, doing volunteer work for the sake of obtaining personal gains defeats the purpose.)
Children who volunteer are more likely to grow up to be adults with these skills. Family volunteering ideas need not be onerous. Perhaps pick one or two a year that strengthen your family values and fit in with your children’s ages and routines. Ideas include:
- Donate to a food pantry—children can help choose items.
- Create Christmas boxes for charities.
- Walk or run to raise funds to fight a disease.
- Put together books, toys, games or activity boxes for children at a local hospital.
- Take muffins to the staff on duty on public holidays at nursing homes, or fire or police stations.
- Clean up your local park, neighbourhood or beach (supervise your children closely).
- Deliver meals to an elderly neighbour or someone who is ill.
- Help look after a neighbour’s pet or do respite care at local animal shelters.
- Support and become involved with advocacy groups.
When charity work becomes part of your family habit, it teaches children about the value of others.
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